Otterden Chapel

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Click for larger image of Otterden Chapel - today (photo: Harold Wyld)
Otterden Chapel - today
Chapel interior, looking WNW (photo: Arthur Percival)
Chapel interior, looking WNW.
Stained glass windows in Otterden Chapel (photo: Arthur Percival)
Stained glass windows in Otterden Chapel
Stained glass windows in Otterden Chapel (photo: Arthur Percival)
Stained glass windows in Otterden Chapel
Stained glass windows in Otterden Chapel (photo: Arthur Percival)
Stained glass windows in Otterden Chapel
Otterden Chapel's open benches (photo: Arthur Percival)
'Chinese Chippendale' open benches
Otterden Chapel's font (photo: Arthur Percival)
The white marble font.

The Chapel of St Lawrence in the grounds of Otterden Place is, in the view of local historian Arthur Percival who has provided the following notes, "a wonderfully unspoilt period-piece". He writes:

"Otterden Church is dedicated to St Lawrence, martyred in Rome in 258 during the persecutions of the Emperor Valerian. He is remembered in 227 other pre-Reformation dedications in England. Several of them were early, like the famous Anglo-Saxon church at Bradford-on-Avon. So possibly the Otterden site is one of early Christian observance.

"However the present building is not medieval. It can only be described as a red-brick box, though of high-quality craftsmanship. There's no tower and, as Edward Hasted, the late 18th-century historian of Kent, noted, it doesn't look like a place of worship.

"It was built between 1753 and 1759 at the expense of the Rev Granville Wheler, who lived at Otterden Place. No-one knows what form its predecessor took, but probably it was modest in size. It had just three bells, presumably in some form of tower. In 1585 only one was left working.

"By the mid-18th century it was probably in very poor shape, like many other medieval churches at the time, and the Rev Wheler doubtless hankered after something new and fashionable. He may well have been the architect, as no other designer has been credited with the building, and in 1752 he had offered a design for a new roof for Sittingbourne Parish Church, which had been badly damaged by fire.

"The austerity of the exterior is not matched within. You might expect to see plain box-pews: instead there are comfortable open benches in the Chinese Chippendale taste. You could not, you dare not, doze off during the sermon. In the shallow chancel is a marble reredos of the kind with which Jane Austen would have been so familiar - with the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments incised in elegant gilded lettering. The font is a 'chaste' white marble bowl on a wrought-iron tripod.

"But the Rev Wheeler was no vandal. The finest treasures of the medieval church were carefully preserved, some of them in a shallow annexe on the north side whose floor level is a lot lower than the rest of the structure and which may represent a small survival of the older building.

"These treasures are all monuments, and very grand some of them are, too. A visit to the Church is well worthwhile just to enjoy them. For lovers of brasses there is a very fine one in memory of Thomas Seintleger, who died in 1408.

"What impress most because of their scale and splendour are those to William Lewin (died 1598), John Bunce (died 1611) and Sir Justinian Lewin (died 1620). Like so many others of the period, all are in full-blooded Renaissance style, though it was to be another 50 years before this became generally fashionable in building design..

"It was William Lewin, a lawyer, who bought Otterden Place from the explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert. The monument to his son Justinian, more naturalistic in its depictions than the other two, is probably by the famous monument designer Epiphanius Evesham, whose work can also be seen at nearby Boughton-under-Blean and Lynsted Churches."

The Chapel Today

Otterden Church was declared redundant some years ago, and now serves as a private chapel for Otterden Place. However public worship still takes place there, normally in the form of Evensong on the first Sunday of each month from April to September. In addition weddings, baptisms and funerals take place from time to time.

Otterden is part of a combined benefice with Eastling and Stalisfield. It is within the parish of 'Stalisfield with Otterden', and the parish church is St Mary's, Stalisfield. 

Contacts

Priest-in-charge: Rev'd Caroline Pinchbeck
The Rectory, Newnham Lane, Eastling ME13 0AS ( 01795 890487.
Curate: Rev'd Angela Cheeseman ( 01795 890629.
Readers:
Mr Norman Fowler ( 01795 890412
and Mr Hugh Perks ( 01795 890603.

Parochial Church Council
Chairman: Rev Caroline Pinchbeck
Secretary: Mrs Jan Beckenham
Treasurer: Dr Steve Ruston
Churchwardens: Mrs Pat Thompson, Martin Beckenham

Plaque to G H Wheler d 1827 (photo: Arthur Percival)
Monument to Wm Lewin d1598 (photo: Arthur Percival)
Monument to Sir Justinian Lewin d1620 (photo: Arthur Percival)
Monument to Dot and John Bunce (photo: Arthur Percival)
G H Wheler d 1827
Wm Lewin d 1598
Sir Justinian Lewin d 1620
John and Dot Bunce

This page was last updated on July 7, 2008